Last year, I finally got around to reading Justin Cronin's much-hyped The Passage. Perhaps because of that hype, I was not expecting much; so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be an excellent epic novel that was more post-apocalyptic than anything else. It was also long. Very long. And yet it felt half that length.
So reflecting back on my reading of The Twelve - otherwise known as the second book in THE PASSAGE SERIES - the first thing that struck me was how long it felt. Which is odd, because it's only two-thirds the length of the first novel, and yet it took me twice as long to read.
Initially this was because I was savouring every page. And though I enjoyed the return to almost-present times and the world just after the virals had begun to spread through North America, the rest of the novel felt far more sedate in pace, and seemed to get bogged down at almost every turn. Some of that is clearly due to the large number of characters Cronin includes. More of it, though, is due to some overly wordy writing that fails to flow in the same way as it did in The Passage.
To illustrate, I'll now re-write the above paragraph, Justin-Cronin-stylez:
To begin, the facsimiles of texture and smell that permeated through the writing demanded a special kind of appreciation; one that could rightly be identified as going well beyond a simple appreciation for the narrative as it unfolded. The early chapters were particularly arresting dealing, as they did, with the fall of the world as we now know it - a world utterly unready for the type of monster that was cultivated from The Zero and its Twelve next-generation mutations. However, soon thereafter, the propulsion of the main narrative slowed to a more languid pace that allowed for the introduction of a plethora of new characters; characters that on their own may not have played an initially large a role in proceedings, but whose actions would reverberate through the future to the time where Peter, Alicia, Michael and, of course, Amy, would make decisions that would affect the future of the entire world. Alas, some would criticise the lack of brevity associated with the author's art - an art made all the more profound by its incredible use of both adverbs and synonyms, and its utter desperation to avoid any and all sentences that did not require at least three commas, a semi-colon or at the absolute minimum, a good old-fashioned dash.
Having now had my fun, I should emphasise I did not dislike this novel. It was actually fairly good. It just took too long to get where it was going, and once we got there, I felt the pay-off was slightly lacking, given all that had come before it.
In short, The Twelve is a perfectly serviceable sequel and middle-book in an epic trilogy. How it is judged in future will likely ultimately be determined by how good (or not) the final novel in said trilogy is. If it kicks serious amounts of ass, then the slog that this novel became to put the pieces where they needed to be, will be more than worth it. If it is little more than a series of whimpers on the way to a disappointing "grand" finale, then this one will have been a waste.
3 Orders to Lay Down and Die for The Twelve.